Congressional Black Caucus Foundation President Urges FAMU Graduates to Lead and Serve

Photo by Keytron Hill
More than 700 FAMU graduates listened intently as Washington urged graduates to lead and serve.

By Keytron Hill
Outlook Writer

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University held its 2014 fall commencement ceremony, Friday Dec. 12 at FAMU’s Alfred Lawson Jr. gymnasium.

The room was filled with supporting Rattlers, families and friends who all came to witness more than 700 graduates receive their degrees and embark on the next chapter of their lives.

In addition to celebrating the occasion, commencement speaker A. Shaunise Washington, president and CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., wanted the scores of loved ones and new graduates to glean the full magnitude of receiving a degree from Florida A&M University.

“The training that FAMU provides definitely sets you apart. It is an experience and a milestone that positions you in a network of global leaders. And as you look to the future, you may ask yourself: ‘Now what?’ ” She said.

As commencement speaker, Washington informed the graduates of the many leaders that have sat in their same chairs, who are now holding distinguished positions in their fields. After asking the question, “Now what?” Washington decided to share how she feels the graduating Rattlers can work within their global networks to advance the nation’s progress.

“It is a charge that is best summarized in the Congressional Black Caucus call to action, ‘I lead, I serve,’ ” said Washington.

Washington focused on four qualities that she believed the graduates would need in order to be successful leaders, which included confidence, courage, conviction and empathy.

With the reality of the many killings of young African-American men, including Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and FAMU student Johnathan Ferell, Washington shared her thoughts on how not only the graduates can handle these situations, but everyone as a whole.

“You may be feeling anger, frustration and disappointed in the country that despite its short comings, we love so dearly. But I challenge you today to channel these feelings in the most productive way possible. You have a voice, you have a vote, use them,” said Washington.

Former Student Government President and graduating senior Anthony Siders was called to the lectern to receive The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University President Student Leadership Award for serving as student government association president for the year 2013 to 2014.

“I haven’t done this since I was in office, but let me make sure I know where I’m at. I represent!” Siders said, as the entire room responded, “Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Oct 3, 1887, what!”

“Before I take my seat, I want to leave a message to you guys. Right now we need FAMU student support more than ever because there have been people who wanted to dismantle the name of HBCU’s, mainly FAMU,” Siders said. “But let me remind the haters and the imitators that we are not just some HBCU. We are the HBCU and if anyone decides to stand in between FAMU and her promise, her legacy, her past or her future we will send them one message, one voice as one body, as one people. FAMU forever, backwards never, FAMU today, FAMU tomorrow and FAMU forever.”

Before presenting the graduates with diplomas, FAMU President Elmira Mangum had one more surprise and a few more awards for Rattlers.

“Tonight is a celebration of beginnings, not only for our graduates but also for the official launch of the Presidents Strong Finish Award. Tonight we will award 34 students who came to FAMU without scholarship support with a financial gift that will assist them in paying down the debt they have accumulated while pursuing their degrees,” said Mangum.

She explained the program, encouraging younger Rattlers to finish school in four years in order to be eligible for the award.

Names were called one by one as graduates walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. Families and friends gathered outside the gymnasium to take pictures and get one last group picture with friends, sorority and fraternity members.

“It has been the struggle,” said Julia Berry, as she described her college experience. “I’m ready to get a job and move on with my life.”

Claudette Harold received her doctoral degree in education leadership. She shared how she felt about the commencement speaker and the qualities Washington discussed that she feels she possesses.

“She (Washington) was excellent, I have to get a copy of the video so I can remember a lot of the principles and the practices she talked about,” Harold said. “If I had to select one of the four qualities I would say confidence because of those persons who helped me to grow professionally and who helped me to think critically.”